Slain Hercules Woman Spoke With a Friend During Police Pursuit

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area

    The co-worker of a woman found dead in her boyfriend's car after a fatal California police chase said Thursday that she spoke with the victim during the pursuit.
         
    The high-speed chase ended at a Richmond strip mall on Tuesday night, when officers shot and killed murder suspect Efren Valdemoro.

          Officers found the body of Cindy Tran, 46, in the passenger seat of Valdemoro's car. Tran had apparently suffered severe head and neck injuries.
         
    Sandra Le, who worked with Tran at a Vallejo nail salon, told The Associated Press that the salon called Tran, who also went by the name Jennie, during the chase. Le said she could hear Tran pleading in the background.

    Tran worked at a beauty salon in Vallejo and a coworker told Bay City News that Valdemoro would visit her there frequently. He picked her up Tuesday night after her shift at the salon. Police say Tran called a family member that night saying Valdemoro kidnapped her and she was with him in his car.
         
    "I could hear these sirens, and I could hear Jennie screaming, 'No! Stop! Honey, I love you. Please. No!"' Le said.

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    Le said she tried to find out where Tran was before the phone went silent.

    Valdemoro, 38, had been wanted in connection with the death of Ricardo Sales, who was beaten to death in a Hercules home on Saturday. Police also believe Valdemoro is connected to two bodies that were discovered in Vallejo on Tuesday.

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    California Highway Patrol Sgt. Trent Cross said investigators are looking into Tran's cell phone records to determine if she was killed by Valdemoro during the chase. He said officers did not observe Valdemoro attacking Tran during the pursuit.

    Valdemoro was shot and killed by CHP officers inside a market at the strip mall after refusing to drop two meat cleavers he grabbed from the wall of the butcher counter, Cross said. Officers opened fire after Valdemoro lunged at them with the cleavers, Cross said.

    The deadly confrontation occurred as Vallejo investigators discovered two badly decomposed bodies in a home. One of the victims, Segundina Allen, 63, was an acquaintance of Valdemoro who had allowed him to stay in her home off and on for about 10 years, authorities said.

    Allen and her longtime friend, Marcaria Smart, 60, were reported missing last weekend and hadn't been seen since Aug. 25. Investigators on the missing-persons case searched Allen's home Tuesday afternoon after noticing flies in the house earlier and found the bodies -- one in the backyard and one inside the house, said Vallejo Police Lt. Abel Tenorio.

    They also found chemicals used to make explosives. Allen's husband, Charles Rittenhouse, 72, who was home when the bodies were discovered, was arrested on suspicion of explosives possession and was being questioned in the women's deaths, Tenorio said.

    Authorities tried to stop Valdemoro's vehicle Tuesday night because he was wanted in the killing of Sales, 73. Police are still looking for Sales's son, Frederick Sales, 35.

    Valdemoro was seen fighting with the elderly man and his son the weekend before, according to Hercules police, who were called to break up the fight. He apparently suspected that Tran was romantically involved with either Ricardo Sales or his son.

    Police said the Saleses had been renting rooms in the home owned by Tran.

    Le, who said she had met Valdemoro and found him strange, said staff at the salon are reaching out to Tran's four sons, who range in age from 14 to 21.

    "They're holding up as best as they can," she said, as passers-by gave her hugs and expressed their condolences. "It's so surreal for everybody."